Have you been charged with ‘extortion with threat to destroy property’?
If you have been charged with extortion, you will need to carefully consider your options, with the help of an experienced criminal lawyer, before appearing in Court.
In Victoria, extortion with threat to destroy or endanger property is a criminal offence under section 28 of the Crimes Act 1958. This offence is liable to a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment if found guilty.
Blackmail is related to extortion and is the offence of making an unwarranted and menacing demand with intention to gain for oneself or cause loss to another.
Read further for more details on ‘extortion with threat to destroy property’.
Elements of the offence
The legal definition of ‘extortion with threat to destroy or endanger property’ is found in section 28 of the Crimes Act 1958.
The prosecution must prove the following elements, beyond a reasonable doubt, for a jury to find an accused guilty of this offence:
- The accused made a demand;
- The demand was accompanied by a threat to destroy or endanger a specified type of property; and
- The accused intended the recipient to fear that the threat would be carried out unless the recipient complied with the demand.
Note that the first and third elements of are the same as for the offence of ‘extortion with threat to kill, injure or endanger life‘ under section 27 of the Crimes Act 1958.
The accused made a demand
The first element is that the accused made a demand of an alleged victim. It is for the jury to determine whether a demand was made. The test is whether a reasonable person would consider that a demand was made in the circumstances (R v Collister (1955) 39 Cr App R 100).
The demand may be implicit or explicit (R v Clear  1 QB 670), and the accused’s demeanour and circumstances surrounding the conduct may be determinative. For example, a mere request may be sufficient to constitute a demand if it is backed up by a threat (e.g. R v Lambert).
Threat to destroy or endanger property
The second element is that the demand was accompanied by a threat to destroy or endanger the safety of a:
- Structure in the nature of a building;
- Motor vehicle;
- Railway engine; or
- Railway carriage.
Intended the recipient to fear
The final element is that the accused intended the recipient of the threat to fear that the threat would be carried out if they did not comply with the demand (R v Dixon-Jenkins (1985) 14 A Crim R 372).
It is not necessary that the accused intended to carry out the threat or that the other person felt fear in response to the threat; the prosecution need only prove that the recipient believed they were at risk of harm (R v Dixon-Jenkins (1985) 14 A Crim R 372).
If you have been charged with an extortion offence, you may have a valid defence, such as acting under duress or mistake of fact.
The maximum penalty
Eextortion with threat to destroy property is liable to a maximum penalty of 10 years (or level 5 imprisonment).
‘Extortion with threat to kill’, and ‘extortion with threat to destroy property’ are also subject to automatic forfeiture in which a court may be required to impose a confiscation order in addition to sentence.
Where will my case be heard?
Extortion with threat to destroy property can be heard in either the Magistrates Court, County Court or Supreme Court, depending on whether the offence is combined with other charges.
Although extortion is a serious and indictable offence, it can be heard summarily in the Magistrates’ Court per schedule 2 of the Criminal Procedure Act 2009.
What to do if you have been charged
If you have been charged with extortion with threat to destroy property, let one of our experienced criminal lawyers help you today.
Preparation is critical to achieve a favourable outcome in relation to any matter. Don’t leave it to the last minute.
Questions you will need to think about include:
- Do you have a defence?
- Does the prosecution have a case?
- Did you threaten to destroy someone’s property (either a structure or a vehicle) if they did not agree to a demand made by you?
- Was this done with the intention of frightening the person?
- Did you act alone, or are you a co-accused?
- If you are pleading guilty, what can you do to minimise your sentence?
Preparing yourself and your case is critical and must be done before proceeding further.
Contact us to consult a criminal law specialist as soon as possible.
Section 28 Extortion with threat to destroy property
A person who makes a demand of another person with a threat to destroy, or endanger the safety of, a building, structure in the nature of a building, bridge, mine, aircraft, vessel, motor vehicle, railway engine or railway carriage is guilty of an indictable offence.
Penalty: Level 5 imprisonment (10 years maximum).